"Scene Stealers," a gimmicky, DV-shot opus encompassing idiotically titled films-within-films such as "Bipolar," "Venezuela" and "Attention Deficit," is enough to give post-modernism a bad name. Tacky pic misses satiric targets, wallows in endless navel-gazing, and unconvincingly alibis its own glaring flaws. Distrib chances look dim.

“Scene Stealers,” a gimmicky, DV-shot opus encompassing idiotically titled films-within-films such as “Bipolar,” “Venezuela” and “Attention Deficit,” is enough to give post-modernism a bad name. A poor man’s “Cecil B. Demented,” tacky pic misses satiric targets, wallows in endless navel-gazing, and unconvincingly alibis its own glaring flaws as willed effects (for example, the inept female lead who was meant to come across as a bad actress all along). Distrib chances for this stridently amateurish exercise look dim.

An aspiring writer/director (Craig Mowry), whose script was appropriated by the producer he pitched it to, kidnaps the star of the plagiarized film (Laraine Gordon) in an elaborate and largely incomprehensible act of revenge. A series of heavy-handedly ironic twists has pic continually pull back to reveal another stratum, each more pretentiously vapid than the last. Presence of celebs Bob Balaban, Sonia Braga, Peter Bogdanovich and others does not help viewer to differentiate the “dumb Hollywood mega-production” layers from the supposedly “edgy indie” ones. Musical interlude by jazz vocalist Stacey Kent, incongruously excerpted in artificially aged, grainy black-and-white images, injects jarring note of genuine talent into film’s otherwise totally laborious self-consciousness.

Scene Stealers

Production

Produced by Craig Mowry. Co-producer, Darren Bagert. Directed, written by Craig Mowry.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Rune Lind; editor, Eric Glandbard; music, Joshua Mark Tabachnick, Charlie Mangold. Reviewed on videocassette at Hamptons Film Festival (View From Long Island), Oct. 25, 2003. Running time: 104 MIN. With Laraine Gordon, Craig Mowry, Joseph Desane, Bob Balaban, Sonia Braga, Robert Vaughn, Peter Bogdanovich, Stacey Kent.
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